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Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0201626209, Paperback)Early in Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences, biographer James R. Mellow recounts an episode from the writer's apprentice years in which the then young journalist kept Kansas City Star colleague Ted Brumback awake for the better part of the night with drunken readings from Robert Browning. When Brumback woke up at four the next morning, Hemingway was still talking, but sailed through the work day that followed with seemingly no ill effects. "Sometimes I think that's the outstanding characteristic of genius," Brumback said later, "boundless energy." It was this vital energy and its subsequent translation into fiction that distinguishes Hemingway from his illustrious contemporaries. Perhaps no other writer in this century has so deliberately, and so successfully, pursued such a variety of experiences for source material.
Just recounting the significant events in Hemingway's life--the war experiences, the literary feuds, the safaris, the wives--is a major endeavor, and Mellow's ability to do so fluently and concisely in this relatively compact work, and with depth of analysis, is one of the book's outstanding qualities. Mellow's extensive experience with Hemingway's contemporaries (having written both Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company and a biography of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Invented Lives) proves invaluable to him in this project. He has the background both to cover the Paris of the 1920s, where Hemingway honed his craft, and to make the necessary critical assessment of the writer's time-line, which Hemingway conflated and re-created repeatedly in later life. Mellow's sensitive appreciation of Hemingway's prose doesn't blind him to a clear-sighted assessment of the writer's literary weaknesses and failures. Nor does his evident affection for his subject hinder him from detailing the manipulations, grudges, and breaches of faith that Hemingway was capable of in his ambitious drive to be the Great American Writer. Mellow is particularly good at demonstrating how Hemingway's life, as much as his fiction, was a conscious creation. The title of this biography is, we discover, largely an ironic one, as the writer's tendency to mix truth and fantasy in his writing and his own life was to have vast consequences, for his friends and lovers, for himself, and most tragically, for the literary genius that was far too often squandered in his later years. --John Longenbaugh
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:36 -0400)
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